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In a restaurant named for one of America's greatest writers, a man who penned some of the country's classics, it's not surprising to see cocktail classics on the wine list. What is a surprise - although maybe not, given the context - is to find that the wine list is inserted into copies of an encyclopedia, conveniently close at hand to our table!


There are many volumes lined up in a wall of bookcases, and you get the feeling that the great man, Ernest Miller Hemingway, Nobel prize-winner no less, is lurking somewhere not too far away, having a wry smile at it all. After all he was knoiwn to be more than a little fond of having few (or more) drinks with friends.


There's a definite Left Bank feel to Hemingway's Manly, but here the sight of water across the road is not the Seine, but the South Tasman Sea. Owners Emmanuel Deleuse and Sonia Piantoni could see the potential for this place when they visited some time back, and when they took over about a year ago, they had a clear idea of what they wanted to make of the place. 

And the food spells it out perfectly. Relaxed - a paper bag of the best shoestring chips ($10); and indulgent - they're accompanied by a tub of truffled aioli so irresistible that you automatically say 'no, I can't touch that!' and then find yourself dipping back and back into it again.

Hemingway's chef Hungarian-born Zsolt Kovacs has had 12 years experience fine-tuning his skills as a chef, starting his training in the Rhineland in Germany, before moving on to Munich, Berlin and Bavaria. Zsolt has trained with many renowned French chefs throughout his career and it shows in the food. 

Although it is not all carb-heavy. This dish of sauteed spiced squid with ink mayonnaise, $18, (above) is refreshing, and good springboard from which to continue with more dishes.

For that is what it is like here. It's a bistro-easy place, with drinks as you go, ordering more food when you get hungry again. Quirky and fun - do check out the various memorabilia and signs - so welcoming that it makes you feel like staying on and relaxing. 

Obviously in winter, when we visited, the dishes were perfect for colder weather, such as this sage butter gnocchi ($22). In summer, when Manly becomes a seaside venue again, they will match that mood as well. 

Emmanuel and Sonia understand dining. Their background most recently has been in the French Alps, where they own Le Montana, a Michelin Star restaurant in the mountain resort, Val Thorens. Their common passion for gastronomy and love for Australia, which Emmanuel has been visiting for over 20 years, has inspired them to bring a little bit of French flavour to Manly. Understandably, the locals are thrilled.

Many of the dishes are ideal for sharing, such as this tarte flambe from Alsace, $15, a sort of white pizza with cheese and onions and bacon. Perfect with beers and a great starter.

Hemingway may never have visited Manly in person, but it is my guess that if he had, he would have loved the beach, enjoyed the surf, and been more than happy to come here at the end of the day to eat chips and mussels, have some drinks and maybe pen a few paragraphs of his next novel.

Easy to find, just a block from The Corso, and across the road from the beach, this place is worth remembering.

At night, this sign will show you where to come.


Hemingway's Manly, 48 North Steyne, Manly. Phone 02 9976 3030. Open 7am until late daily. Licensed.


- review and pics by Sally Hammond & Gordon Hammond



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